Competition Law Guide
Competition law exists to maintain market competition. Particularly in our current climate, when trade with other countries is at the forefront of many minds, competition law is a key issue.
If competition law jumps out to you as an interesting practice area, read this page for key information required to understand this area of law.
What is Competition Law?
Competition law in the United Kingdom includes both domestic and EU legislation which is intended to prevent anti-competitive behaviour in the market. It aims ensure the market is fair for consumers and producers by preventing unethical or anti-competitive practices designed to gain a larger market share than what would be achieved through honest competition.
An example of such anti-competitive practice prohibited by law would be excessive pricing which involves a company with the largest market share or the monopoly holder charging an extreme price for something that is a necessary purchase for the consumer.
Other examples include tying the purchase of one product to another, predatory pricing and refusal to deal with another company in a way that restricts competition.
The Fair Trading Act 1973 is the piece of UK legislation that extended UK competition law to control monopolies, mergers and takeovers, restrictive trade agreements and resale prices. The act established the Office of Fair Trading.
In terms of European Union law, currently, if a British company is carrying out unfair business practice involved in a cartel or is attempting to merge in a way which would disrupt the market EU law exclusively applies. Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) prohibits agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between member states and have as their object the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition.
Unfair competition is a deceptive business practice that causes economic harm to other businesses or consumers. This goes beyond competition law and can include trademark infringement or misappropriation of trade secrets.
Moreover, competition law can be taught during your LLB in a range of different ways. For example, competition law often makes up part of a European Union law module which is compulsory during your degree or more specifically, competition law can be taught itself as an optional module in your final year studies.
What is Antitrust Law?
Competition Law is known as antitrust law in the US. In the US, antitrust law is a collection of federal and state government laws that regulate the conduct to promote competition for the benefit of consumers.
One of the main differences between US antitrust and UK and EU competition law policies is that the EU has an administrative system for enforcement which penalises companies via fines. Whereas, US antitrust enforcement is based on criminal law with both financial and custodial penalties available.
What Does a Competition Lawyer Do?
A competition lawyer can carry out many different roles in their career. For example:
- Negotiate clearance for acquisitions, mergers and joint ventures.
- Advise on the agreements to ensure they can withstand a competition challenge.
- Deal with investigations into how a client conducts business.
- Bring or defend claims into the Competition Appeal Tribunal
- Advise on cross-border trade
If you have particularly enjoyed European Union law or competition law at university or even if you are not a law student but have an interest in economics and politics, then a career in competition law might be right up your street.
This type of work, however, does require focused commercial awareness and a consistently high academic standard. Also, as there is almost an inevitable role in understanding cross-border trade built into this area, if you are interested in giving your career an international aspect this may also be of interest to you.
Competition Law Firms
Below are some UK firms dealing with the subject area.
- Bristows LLP
- Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
- Allen & Overy LLP
- DLA Piper
- Macfarlanes LLP
- Norton Rose Fulbright
- Simmons & Simmons
Words: Alicia Gibson
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